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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal Grows: 170 Warheads and Counting

Prominent American nuclear scientists have estimated that Pakistan currently possesses around 170 nuclear warheads, and this number may potentially increase to approximately 200 by 2025, based on the current expansion rate.

As reported by PTI, citing the Nuclear Notebook column published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on September 11, the scientists explained, “We estimate that Pakistan now has a nuclear weapons stockpile of approximately 170 warheads. The US Defense Intelligence Agency projected in 1999 that Pakistan would have 60 to 80 warheads by 2020, but several new weapon systems have been fielded and developed since then, which leads us to a higher estimate.”

The Nuclear Notebook is a regular feature produced by the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project. It is authored by Project Director Hans M. Kristensen, Senior Research Fellow Matt Korda, and Research Associate Eliana Johns. This column has been a consistent publication in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.

The scientists noted that their estimate comes with considerable uncertainty due to the limited information available about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, as neither Pakistan nor other countries publish detailed information about it.

Given the lack of reliable data from Pakistan, the Nuclear Notebook used a methodology that relied on a combination of open-source materials and analytical work for their estimates. Their information sources included both state-originating data, such as government announcements, declassified documents, budgetary information, military demonstrations, and treaty disclosures, as well as non-state-originating data, such as media reports, think tank assessments, and industry publications. Additionally, they made extensive use of commercial satellite imagery as part of their data sources.

The scientists also noted that with Pakistan developing new delivery systems, four plutonium production reactors, and an expanding uranium enrichment infrastructure, the country’s nuclear stockpile could potentially increase further over the next few years. The rate of growth will depend on various factors, including Pakistan’s nuclear-capable launchers, evolving nuclear strategy, and India’s nuclear arsenal’s growth. They estimated that the stockpile could reach around 200 warheads by the late 2020s if the current growth rate continues.

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However, they also suggested that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal might begin to level off as its current weapons programs are completed, unless India significantly expands its arsenal or builds up its conventional forces.

The scientists also acknowledged that calculating stockpile size based solely on fissile material inventory could overestimate the number of nuclear warheads, but they estimated that Pakistan is currently producing enough fissile material to potentially build 14 to 27 new warheads per year, with an actual annual increase in the stockpile of around 5 to 10 warheads.

In addition to estimating the number of warheads, the Nuclear Notebook provided information on Pakistan’s nuclear-capable aircraft and air-delivered weapons, as well as details about the country’s ballistic missile systems, cruise missiles, and missile bases and facilities.

It’s worth noting that the total number and location of Pakistan’s nuclear-capable missile bases and facilities remain unknown, but the Nuclear Notebook listed several missile bases and provided coordinates and other details.

The scientists also discussed Pakistan’s family of ground- and sea-launched cruise missiles and their development, as well as the development of multiple-warhead capabilities intended as a countermeasure against India’s ballistic missile defense system. They acknowledged the limited public information available about warhead production but mentioned the suspicion that Pakistan Ordnance Factories near Wah, northwest of Islamabad, serve a role in this regard.

John Collins
John Collins
John is an esteemed journalist and author renowned for their incisive reporting and deep insights into global affairs. As a prominent contributor to City Telegraph, John brings over 5 years of experience covering diverse geopolitical landscapes, from the corridors of power in major capitals to the frontlines of conflict zones.

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